Stealth hackers threaten
Wi-Fi networks

11 Jun 2004

Between now and 2006, 70pc of successful wireless local area network (WLAN) attacks will be because of the misconfiguration of WLAN access points (AP) and client software, according to Gartner.

“Whether hackers are able to enter a company’s WLAN through an unprotected AP or through a peer workstation, once they are associated with the network, they will be difficult to detect because they may not be visible in or near the network site,” said John Pescatore, vice president at Gartner. “A clever hacker will play it safe and use the company’s resources quietly, and as a result, may never be found.”

To protect themselves, businesses must make sure that employees or hackers don’t install unauthorised wireless APs on the network and that APs are configured securely. In dense environments, such as urban areas or multi-tenant office buildings, companies have to make sure that their users don’t connect to other companies’ networks.

The least expensive, and least effective, way of doing this is to buy a wireless sniffer handheld and walk the perimeter of the network. The most expensive, and most secure, is to install a separate set of wireless intrusion detection sensors.

“Businesses should use sniffers to demonstrate potential exposure problems to management, especially to the management that funds security problems,” Pescatore said. “Sniffer walks should not be attempted as an ongoing survey method, but should be kept on standby. If rogue WLAN activity is detected by network monitoring systems, individual members of the IT staff can be dispatched, to act as trackers, to hone in on unauthorised signal sources.”

By Brian Skelly